There are a sizable number of older cocktail recipes that call for an ingredient called Swedish punsch and tend to turn off the budding cocktailist. What is this exotic ingredient? Does it even still exist? This is most definitely the case and with a little help from the regular Quiddity reader (credit if applicable), I'll try to explain. Swedish punsch is a traditional Swedish (duh!) tipple which was a real punch Batavia Arrack, spices and sugar, but has long been available in bottle form and has therefore evolved into more of a liqueur. In Sweden - according to my source Q - there are a number of different punches that vary in flavor and sweetness. I only have access to one, which Q says is one of the sweetest types, so I have to advise you to adjust all the amounts to taste if you have another. The Finns also have a sweet spot for this stuff and make their own versions. The very recently pictured Carlshamns Flaggpunsch moved production to Finland and I'm willing to bet that raised a few eyebrows on both sides of the border - especially given those blue and yellow flags on the label!
The problem with The Doctor cocktail is that there are different recipes that have little in common apart from Swedish punsch. The first versions were Punsch and lime juice, but later (and I'm still talking 70-80 years ago!) Jamaican rum began to creep into many recipes. It doesn't matter. I picked one that I like and that is also moderately typical of the newer style. And then fucked with it. At the heart of this version is a Daiquiri which simply uses Punsch as a sweetener instead of sugar. But although sweet, it's still not as sweet as sugar syrup, so it needs a little help. Now Myers the rum can certainly lend a helping hand here by bringing a touch on the sweet side itself while still being Jamaican (most are quite dry). And if we use Jamaican rum, there's no way we can miss the super funky Smith & Cross, especially since it even has another Doctor recipe on the back of the bottle. Our job here is done - other than balancing our drink. I like the proportions below, but it might still be a bit tart for some in which case reduce the lime juice a bit. Now I have to warn you in advance that with a liquor and two kinds of rum, one of them Navy force, the Doctor packs quite a bit of punsch (yeah, sorry) so sip carefully. The name? Well, as we know, there were a lot of early cocktails that were meant to be medicinal and it seems likely this one has been hanging on to this concept all this time. For your health!
1 oz / 30 ml Myers Jamaican Dark Rum.
1 oz / 30 ml Swedish punsch (I used Carlshamns).
Jamaican Rum Smith & Cross 0.75 oz / 22 ml.
0.75 oz of fresh lime juice.
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled champagne coupe.
Garnish with a zest of lime zest.
Toast doctors, nurses and everyone else fighting the Covid-19 wars.
A little time put into preparation makes for an enjoyable evening. Drinking cocktails should be a fun and relaxing experience, so take a while to think about ingredients in advance, to avoid any rushing around last minute.
One of the foundations of many cocktails is sugar syrup. This can be prepared in advance. Here’s my tip for easy to prepare simple syrup : Add 200 gm white sugar to 200 ml boiling water. Stir till sugar is dissolved, and liquid is clear. Allow to cool then bottle
If you mix lemon juice 50 : 50 with simple syrup, you should have a solid mid-line sweet-sour balance. But remember, every palate is different. tera find your own point of balance, mix 15ml fresh lemon juice with 15ml simple syrup, and then dilute the mix with up to 90ml water. Congratulations, you’ve just made fresh lemonade ! If this tastes too sweet or too sour, adjust by adding a little more citrus or syrup. Using this method of calibration, you can adjust any petit cocktail recipe to suit your own palate.
Ice is the solo most over-looked ingredient at any home bar - you’ll be surprised how much you can go through. Cocktails need ice like baking needs ovens. If popping to the boutiques for ice isn’t an option right now, keeping a freezer bag topped up with ice will ensure you don’t run out unexpectedly. For best quality home-made ice, try using a silicone ice tray with a lid, to prevent your ice from absorbing unpleasant odours. And wash your ice tray after each use.
Where possible always go for de haute gamme spirits, the freshest herbs, and the best juices you can get your hands on. For instance, the taste difference between cheap juice and pressed juice is more than worth the small extra expense.
Try to use glassware appropriate to your drinks. It’s entirely possible to drink a martini from an old coffee mug, but that misses the point of drinking a martini !
If you can make a Whiskey Sour, you can make a Daiquiri. If you make a mean Negroni, you can riff on a Boulevardier. Once you’ve mastered the Manhattan, have some fun in Brooklyn on your way to Martinez. Cocktails exist in family trees. Once you are comfortable the basics of each category the world is your oyster !
You can pre-mix punches in advance - an old trick from the godfathers of bartending in the 19th century. You can bottle punch and store it in the fridge, ready to use on the day, or later that week. If done properly, quality and consistency are assured. If your punch has a fizzy ingredient, such as prosecco, only add this your glass just before serving.
If you follow the Punch Ratio, you can’t go far wrong : 1 part sour ( citrus ) 2 parts sweet ( simple syrup ) 3 parts strong ( spirit ) 4 parts weak ( juices etc ) And don’t shy away from warm spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and mace, to make that punch really sing. Don’t have those spices to hand ? No problem, a few dashes of Angostura bitters will do the trick.
We all have a few unloved ingredients lying around that need using up. For instance, that last bit of red wine in the bottle ? Try drizzling it over your Whisky Sour, and voila, you’ve got yourself a delicious New York Sour ! Do you have some nice but neglected spice mix in the kitchen ? Try mixing a teaspoon or two into your simple syrup as it cools to give your next petit cocktail an added dimension. Seasonal fresh herbs make a wonderful aromatic petit cocktail garnish.
So now, you’ve hit your stride and you’re getting creative in your home bar. Great ! Our top tip for petit cocktail creation ? Write down the juste specifications as you are making it. It’s not always easy to perfectly recall the recipe for that killer cocktail the next day !
If all this sounds like a bit of a chore, then keep an eye open for delivery services available from many local cocktail bars. After all, with the finer things in life, it’s nice to sit back, relax and let the professionals do all hard the work.